Change Has Come: What to Hope for?

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“Change for Hope” was President George Weah’s slogan and rallying cry throughout his presidential campaign. Whatever way he and members of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) interpret it, anyone coming across the slogan during the campaign will understand it as an imperative phrase telling the people to change the existing leadership for hope for a better future.

This hope, as the slogan portrays, evokes the enthusiasm that it is the CDC that can provide it, and therefore voters had no choice but to prioritize electing George Weah and the CDC into national leadership.

In compliance with the dictate of the slogan, candidate Weah received overwhelming votes in both the first and second rounds of the 2017 election, thereby leading him to the highest seat of the land.

The change has now come and it is time to hope, but what do we hope for?

This question brings to mind many answers: free education, reduction in prices of basic locally produced and imported commodities, low transport fares, drastically lower the foreign exchange rate, and the list goes on.

All these and many others cannot be done miraculously in a day; they rather take time and hard work to accomplish.

Nevertheless, there are few urgent priorities to consider that are expected to impact mainly the youth of Liberia. The first and foremost is to institute a strong, enforceable law against the importation and sale of narcotic substances that are overwhelming the country. As though to underscore the very serious challenges facing this new Weah Administration, just before the inauguration, some aliens were caught at the Roberts International Airport with different kinds of narcotic substances.

These illegal substances are brought into the country and the vulnerable youth, popularly referred to as “ZOGOS,” have become addicted and prone to various psychological and medical illnesses. As evidence shows, those young men and women taking in these drugs are all over the city in filthy appearances, committing theft of phones and purses and other items, from innocent people. These are people who have pledged their loyalty to you, Mr. President, for hope after change has been made. In a country where there is hardly any efficient and effective mental home or psychiatric institution, creating a law to restrict the importation and consumption of narcotic substances is one way of bringing hope to our youth.

Another thing to consider, Mr. President, is refining the education sector, which will ensure that our young  people are going to acquire knowledge. As your predecessor noted several years ago, Liberia’s “education system is a mess,” and since this pronouncement in March of 2012, there has been no effective reform in the sector up to the time the Sirleaf Administration came to an end last Monday, when you took the oath of office as Liberia’s President. Most Liberian students are functionally illiterate because there are no libraries or even available books they can read. One of President Sirleaf’s Education Ministers, George Werner, who happens to retain his job under the Weah Administration, is on record for stating publicly in local Kru language that “Education is nonsense.” This clearly shows how this cardinal sector that is the bedrock of any society has remained in ruins for the past 12 years without much attention.

The concern for revamping the education sector for the youth should not only be a matter of bringing books, building new schools and training more teachers; the government must also institute measures to fight academic malpractices, including sex and money for grades.

We feel compelled also to mention at this point the nation’s premier university, the University of Liberia. It has over time been marred by violent protests that some have no substantial reasons for carrying out. As a result of the violent protests all too frequently at the UL campus, academic activities are often delayed, to the detriment of many students who wish to study within the four-year scope set by this university.

In his Inaugural Address yesterday, President Weah said that he is prepared to fight corruption to the end; warning that any official caught stealing public funds will be fully prosecuted in accordance with the law.

Good!

Many people expected to hear what President Weah had to say in his Inaugural Address on the economy, culture, transportation, infrastructure and even a robust program to revive national sports and other critical issues. But this issue of corruption was the only one he emphasized. It is a cardinal issue that affects all sectors and it must be addressed to give Liberians hope – that this Administration has truly come with genuine “hope for change” – positive and real change, devoid of the cancerous evil of corruption that has caused Liberia to remain for generations a failed state.

However, the Daily Observer is also convinced that addressing the two issues raised in this Editorial — fighting the proliferation of drugs that are destroying our young people’s future, and education — are matters which, if effectively and seriously addressed by this new administration, will bring real hope to Liberian youth, setting them on a deliberate and sustained path to a better future.

When President Weah was speaking to a group of “ZOGOS” on the day Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor celebrated her birthday, January 18, he made a very serious point: “If there would be change as we all expect,” he told them,  “you [yourselves] should also be willing to change.”

This is a challenge to the “ZOGOS,” but how do they change when what is leading them into their unpleasant, even destructive situation remains unaddressed? This is why we are also suggesting that if there would be change and hope for a better future for our youth, government must take actions to address the two issues that may impede, even frustrate the change we all, but most especially our youth, hope and yearn for.

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